When Stress and a Busy Schedule Gets You Off Track

Hello All!

I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve written anything. The last few posts throughout August I had set up months prior because I knew I would be busy and I didn’t want to neglect the blog. However, I thought that by September I’d be able to start where I left off and add posts and get ahead again. Wrong. Things have been non-stop. Not necessarily in a bad way but at times did and does get overwhelming. Because of this I got off track with not only the blog, but my eating, my allergy diet, and also exercise. Because of this, I wanted to share with you how I get myself back on track when things like this happen, even with a busy schedule. But first, let me share with you what got me to this point and 2 things I’ve learned about myself.

You don’t have to read my story. Just skip to the good stuff if you like. I don’t mind. : )

Putting Too Much On Myself

The last few years… years… I’ve been working on being reasonable with myself and knowing what I can handle and what I can’t. It’s always a learning process. There are times I realized I could have done more, and times I should have taken better care of myself. To know when I needed to go home early, or not volunteered my time I really didn’t have that should have been used in more useful ways so that I didn’t become overwhelmed. Or not scheduled every hour of the day thinking that I’m this ball of never-ending energy that’s always okay and can handle anything no matter how emotionally, physically, or mentally stressed and/or drained I already was.

No mental or emotional breakdown yet. And I do know when I need a mental health day or even just an afternoon to get me back on track. I’ve gotten that far. It’s a victory! However, that doesn’t mean I still don’t get myself overwhelmed and that I still need to learn and be okay with saying no to things and responsibilities that I can’t handle. That’s the next hurdle to overcome.

First Thing I Cut Out When Stressed or Overwhelmed

When things start to get busy, one of the first things to go is meal prep/planning for me. It takes time, planning, effort, and motivation. I don’t care how easy some people make it or how quickly you can get it done, it’s a chore. It can be a fun chore, but it’s a chore. It’s something that “has” to get done, but not really. And that’s why it’s the first thing to go. I have to keep my life in working order with laundry, having a clean and good smelling house, get to work, do the other things I’ve said I would do or help with family, etc. but meal planning – I can pick up something. I can throw a PB&J sandwich and carrot sticks in a bag and call it lunch. And dinners, whatever is simple, quick, and easy. I’m not about microwave meals, but already pre-made meals to heat up in the oven or something that I can make quick like pasta starts to become the normal. Then James starts asking for chili dogs and macaroni and cheese, or frozen pizza, or quesadillas, etc.

For a week or two, having this routine – it’s not a bad thing. We all have weeks to where getting something to eat to keep going is about all we can do. But when it goes on for months… Not counting 1 random Sunday I actually prepped a breakfast and lunch for the week, it has been since March that I’ve truly regularly meal prepped. I’ve gained weight I know. I don’t know how much yet. I’ll come to that when I’m ready to do something about it. And my digestive system can’t take much more. Even if the things I’m grabbing are “healthy”, I’m still constantly mixing in fast food and pick-up-and-go food to my diet all the time. Not to mention the cookies that have somehow found their place in my house on a regular basis.

To be honest, me feeling overwhelmed is probably, no most definitely, partly to do with how I’ve been eating. Because of having food allergies, it’s more than a physical reaction. It’s also emotional and mental as well. Eating things that are easy and half way prepared, especially vegetarian will more than likely have dairy and soy in it. Soy being my more major allergen. And then eating heavier and less healthy veggie burgers, etc. can mess up your digestive system. Then being stressed on top of it – my poor immune and nervous system has about had it. Nothing major, but enough to where I notice it. I feel overwhelmed. My digestive system is not normal – cramping, bloating, etc. And then sometimes I’ll feel tingling in the back of my legs to my lower back from my nervous system trying to keep up.

Getting Back on Track

Evaluate Your Routine

Look at your routine and see if you can find what you need to do and what you can do less of. Any gaps in your routine, keep them, but make sure you are at a place where you can relax and do something you enjoy.

A huge benefit is to make sure you are getting enough sleep. Not only will this help mentally, but physically and specifically with your digestive system.

Find Out What You Can Realistically Change

Change what you can. As mention above, sleep is one thing you can change now, and start today with a small change to your routine. Here are some other things I look at to see if it’s realistic for me to change or if I’m ready to change these habits.

  • Reduce caffeine and/or alcohol
  • Breakfast: I usually will have time to make a protein shake. My tip is to make sure there is a serving of vegetables (spinach) and if desired, a fruit with the protein mix.
  • Lunches: Don’t eat and go. Have at least 30 minutes of just sitting and eating. Don’t rush your eating times. Make time for it.
    • Try to find something that won’t weigh you down. Find a lunch either that you prep or can buy, but make sure it’s something clean and easy to digest that doesn’t feel heavy. If you are constantly on the move, then taking time to sit and eat a LIGHT lunch is well worth it. I usually make sure either I’m having something full of protein and vegetables or have a snack plate with nuts, vegetables, fruit, and maybe some cheese.
  • If you have 10 minutes and you are not physically exhausted, take a small walk. Even 10 minutes is worth it to relieve some stress and help you get your focus back. The more you can do, (longer or brisker walking) the more you will activate your lymphatic system which helps with detoxing. Something we always need when we’re stressed and haven’t been eating well. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20863266
Keep Looking Forward

Don’t try to do everything at once. Unless you are a person who is all in or nothing, keep making small changes to get your routine and diet back to where you want it. There is no set time to do this in. For some people it will take a day, others will take a few weeks, and others might be months, but keep looking forward. Realize what your next step can be and when you are ready to take it. Make a plan of action if you need to. Set goals. Whatever will keep you moving forward however fast or slow that might be, do it.

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Time Savers for a Healthy Lifestyle

Being mindful of nutritious meals, keeping a routine for exercise, and then also making sure you have time for relaxation can be stressful, which then becomes something unhealthy. I wanted to share with you a few things I do to keep on track so that my time is best spent in other ways and with my family.

1 | Meal Prep

I will be completely honest with you – I hated the idea of meal prep. The thought of having to plan more (even though I am a planner) and cook more (although I love cooking) was not appealling to me at all! My first “meal prep” experience with lunch was literally a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with carrot sticks and either apple slices or clementines. I usually just focus my meal prepping on lunch since our breakfasts are usually the same – yogurt, oatmeal, or a smoothie, and dinners I usually will be home to cook. But here are some things I’ve learned and why it truly is beneficial.

Photo by Nielsen Ramon on Unsplash
Don’t Have to Think About Lunch

After that first week, I realized throughout my busy week, I liked not having to think a wink about lunch. Where was I going to eat? What I was going to eat? Would it be nutritious or would I regret it? It was done and already decided and it wouldn’t be something I would regret.

Not As Tempted

I also realized that because I knew what I was going to be eating, I didn’t think about other foods whether nutritious or not, so I stayed on point with my goals. I set aside the time to prepare salads this week, so I’m having salad for lunch – or whatever it might be. No other internal conversations with myself, it’s already decided.

Keep it Simple

If you haven’t done it yet, try it out with an easy lunch like peanut butter sandwiches and fruits and veggies you just throw in a bag. And now they have those “snack packs” with chopped veggies and dip, or carrot sticks and almonds already prepared in the produce department to grab and throw in your lunch bag that it can be really simple.

Meal prep is suppose to be a time saver, so don’t get hung up on a complicated recipe.

Here is an easy hot lunch to get you started:

  • Frozen Turkey Meatballs
  • Brown Rice
  • Frozen Broccoli Florets
  • Jar of Marinara Sauce
  1. Make the rice. Add salt and pepper or other seasonings you might like.
  2. Add 1/2-1 cup of rice to your lunch container
  3. Add in 3-4 frozen meatballs
  4. Add 1/2-1 cup frozen broccoli
  5. Put Marinara in a small sauce container or sealed baggie if you want to keep it separate, otherwise drizzle on top.

When you are ready to heat up your lunch, the meatballs and frozen broccoli will cook and will have enough water to steam in the container. The only cook time is cooking the rice. The only clean up is the pot for the rice. DONE!

2 | Meal Plan

To go along with meal prepping, have a meal plan ready. I usually try to figure something out a month in advance. It will move and change throughout the month, but I try to be ahead of the game. The first month was hard so I just planned easy dinners and lunch preps to see how it went. Things like tomato soup and sandwiches, veggie burgers and salad, etc. Nothing too complicated. Here are some tips and benefits I’ve found.

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash
Save the Headache

Once you figure out what you are going to be making, and if you are like me, figure it out a month in advance, the headache of: What are we cooking? Do we have it? What are we ordering this week for groceries? It’s already taken care of. You do it once and month, and everything is already decided. Instead of thinking about it every night, you think about it maybe a few times a month.

Keep on Track

Meal plans help to keep you on track with healthy goals. For me, instead of thinking you’ll just pick something up for dinner, I already knew that morning what I was going to be cooking, I already have the ingredients, I just have to get home and make it. That way you can keep on board with whatever you might be watching and it won’t be as easy to get off track.

Grocery Shopping Becomes Easier

I used to go to the store every day or every other day. When I lived right down the street from my favorite grocery stores, it wasn’t that big of a deal, but now living and working about 20-30 minutes away is a big deal. So having my grocery list set for the week, although I might not be able to get everything that one time, has helped a lot. Knowing what I’ll be cooking for breakfast, lunch, and dinner makes creating my grocery list simple and quick.

Plus using a recipe database like Pepperplate makes it that much easier too. Getting all your recipes in one place, and then being able to click on it to add to your grocery list, it already populates the list. It also has a calendar you can create your meal plan on along with having a usable app on your phone. I’ve only ever used Pepperplate, but there are many others out there.

Soon I will be able to offer some meal plans for your family or help you individually with meal plans to meet your goals you might have, but until then!

3 | Order Your Groceries

I was hesitant too. I knew the grocery stores I liked getting my produce and that was the main thing I was concerned about. After the first time I drove up and picked up my groceries, I’ve never looked back. There is nothing like a crowded grocery store to stress me out and get me in a bad mood almost instantly. And that’s not even dealing with the parking lot getting in and out. I can not tell you how many times I came home after grocery shopping and was exhausted, fussy, and just didn’t want any interaction with my family for about 10 minutes after the groceries were put away. Serious. So this option has many upsides to it for me. But there are some things to know before you order it if you have not before.

Photo by leonie wise on Unsplash
Things You Need To Know
  • Different stores have their different ways of doing it
    • Some deliver, some you pick up at the store and call them that you have arrived. Some charge an extra fee, some do not. So figure out the logistics of your favorite store if they offer it
  • Most still honor online coupons so make sure to look to see what’s available to use
  • Most will substitute.
    • If there is an item you don’t want substituted, you can always let them know in your notes or comments when getting your order ready. Whenever there was a substitution to be made it was always equal or better to what I had selected and they honored the original price or it was lower.
    • Speaking of comments – if you want to make sure you have 4 tomatoes, and not just 1 lb. of tomatoes, you can also add those details in the comments when ordering usually.
  • Order ahead.
    • Some places can process the order within a hour or two. Some it takes longer.
    • For me – I make sure to do my order the night before I want to pick it up. That way the time slots to pick it up are at my disposal and I’ll know when will be the best time for me to pick it up.
Why I Love It
  • Produce has been consistently fresh.
    • I order from the grocery store I already knew had fresh produce and ordering it online was no different.
  • Never upset with any substitutions.
    • If there was something they did not have in stock, they substituted it with something comparable or equal to what I had ordered. For example: I needed dried thyme, they had an organic one on sale. They were sold out of it, so they made sure to replace it with another organic one – for the sale price of the other one that was out of stock. Something you would not get going to the store yourself.
  • Frozen products are always still frozen when they deliver.
  • Never overspend on what I need for the month.
  • I don’t get distracted by other things in the store
    • Like chips or that chocolate bar that stares at you while you’re waiting in line – you know what I’m talking about!
  • Saves time.
  • Save money.
    • Because of not getting more than what I need for the week, and them honoring things that are on sale, I always spend less when picking up my groceries (even with the small service fee) than if I were to go to the store myself.
  • Saves my mental and emotional well-being.
    • I’m serious. Life is already stressful. If there is any way to lessen stress and lessen time spent doing things that you could be relaxing and spending time with family – why not?

I truly haven’t had a bad experience and have yet to see a down-side to this. It’s been awesome. There are still things I need to run into a store for here and there, and somethings that are only at one store that I still need to go and get, so I do still actually grocery shop. And the days I have time to walk around to see what’s new, I enjoy. But for the bulk of my shopping that can take an hour or more in a crowded store while I’m trying not to get run over by a cart in the store or a car outside the store (for real), I now order and pick up. I feel fancy, and too be honest feels too good to be true.

Test it out! It saves me at least 2-3 hours of my weekend, which as you know, goes by way too fast.

Bottom Line
Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

Being healthy is a mixture of things – your eating habits, time to exercise, and time spent relaxing and being with the people you love. All of those things take time, effort, and some preparation. Keeping my meals planned and organized has really helped to eliminate wasted time and stress. And then ordering groceries online, I cannot tell you how much that relieves me mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Whatever it is that might stress you out or sucks the time out of your day that could be better spent, see how you can adjust it. The more you make an adjustment the more it becomes permanent and the easier it gets. Time is precious, make what you are doing count.